On Board for Sustainable Business—Next Stop Rio

02 September 2011 | News story

IUCN has been invited to serve on the board of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable and socially-responsible policies. IUCN’s Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre reports from her first board meeting.

Earlier this year, I was honored to be invited by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve on the Board of the UN Global Compact and attended my first meeting as a Board Member in New York in June.

With more than 6,000 business participants and other stakeholders in over 130 countries, the UN Global Compact is today the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative that encourages business to adopt sustainable and socially-responsible policies.

The Board is the cornerstone of the initiative’s governance framework, helping to shape the initiative’s strategy and policy. It has 22 members representing business, civil society, employment and the United Nations and is said to be the UN’s highest-ranking advisory body involving business and civil society.

Launched in 2000 by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Global Compact grew out of a realization that the objectives of the United Nations can be better advanced by working together with the private sector. This evolution is of course not dissimilar to what we are experiencing at IUCN—with the growth of our own Business and Biodiversity Programme and the strengthening of our private sector engagement overall.

Businesses wishing to join the Global Compact are committing themselves to ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. As the Director General of IUCN, I am particularly keen to see the Global Compact develop its environmental portfolio even further, by addressing in a comprehensive manner not only the climate and water crises but also biodiversity loss.

Much of the discussions at the June Board meeting focused on the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, with the UN Secretary-General calling for a strong private sector track at Rio 2012. Already, the Business Action for Sustainable Development 2012, a network of business organizations that have come together under one banner in the interests of sustainable development, are working towards having a more active business participation in the Rio process.

IUCN is also gearing up for the Rio 2012 conference, which will focus on the global transition to a Green Economy. IUCN considers it essential that the voice of sustainable business is heard by governments, civil society and the broader private sector community in Rio and beyond.

As we have heard from Mr. Ban, despite the rapid growth in the Global Compact membership, it is still just a fraction of the estimated 70,000 multinationals and millions of small businesses out there. The Global Compact is now working towards the goal of 20,000 participants by 2020.

Both in my role as IUCN Director General and my personal honorary capacity as UN Global Compact Board Member, I am committed to reaching out to the private sector and helping committed businesses achieve a net positive impact on the environment. Rio will be the next important stop on that journey.